The 9-36 Los Angeles Lakers are heading to Portland looking to snap a 5-game losing streak. LA will have to step up their game in order to accomplish their goal, as they were dispatched by the San Antonio Spurs last night in a game where the outcome was never really in question.
In the Lakers last game against the Blazers they were torched by guards C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, who combined for 57 points. However, this game will be Kobe Bryant’s final trip to Rip City, so the Lakers will have to hope that he has something special in store for his old rivals.
The Lakers started the game with Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, and Roy Hibbert on the floor. Julius Randle started out hitting a nice midrange jumper, but then missed badly on his next attempt. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum both hit early buckets for Portland, but Lou was able to counter by getting fouled while shooting a three (quickly becoming the norm for him). The score stayed close through the opening minutes, but McCollum and Lillard got into an early rhythm and caused all kinds of problems for LA. Three turnovers on four possessions in the middle of the first allowed Portland to pull ahead, 17-12. Following a timeout, the Lakers committed their 6th turnover, which turned into another layup for Lillard. D’Angelo Russell and Ryan Kelly checked into the game for Williams and Randle, but the Lakers continued to show why they are statistically the worst defensive team in the league. Jordan Clarkson found D’Angelo Russell on a backdoor cut to the basket, which was great to see in light of the questions regarding their chemistry. Overall though the first quarter was a disaster for the Lakers, giving up 37 points and scoring just 22.
The second quarter opened with McCollum putting a move on D’Angelo Russell and getting yet another easy basket. A Brandon Bass bucket inside was immediately negated by Allen Crabbe coasting right down the middle of the lane for a lay in. Kelly knocked down a three (just his fifth of the year), but with the Blazers shooting 63% the Lakers were fighting an uphill battle. On the positive side Russell connected on another mid-range jumper, giving him 8 points on 3-4 shooting with 2 free throws. The Lakers did what they could to chip away at the lead, and after an Anthony Brown three trailed by only 11. After a Portland timeout Lillard returned to the game and immediately got to the rim for yet another lay up. Kobe returned to the game amid a mix of cheers and boos, and the Lakers continued to slowly chip away at Portland’s lead. Julius Randle hit a nice short hook in the lane using his right hand, which he is going to have to start doing if he wants to grow as a player. Kobe splashed in an 18-foot jumper, and Randle seemed to gobble up every loose ball, but the Lakers’ porous defense allowed Portland to mostly maintain a double-digit lead. The Lakers went into halftime trailing 62-52.
The second half opened with a Lakers’ shot block turnover followed by 5 quick points from Damian Lillard, which continues the trend from the first half. After a baseline jumper from Kobe it was Roy Hibbert’s turn to cough up the ball, but he managed to run down a fast-breaking Miles Plumlee and prevent the dunk by fouling. Unfortunately, Plumlee hit both free throws, and on the next possession was fouled on a made dunk, which allowed him to push the lead to 20, 77-57. This was definitely not the start to the half that the Lakers were hoping for. 5 quick points from Jordan Clarkson (2 free throws and a three) were a welcome sight, but again the failure to get stops prevented them from making up any ground. D’Angelo Russell came on and provided a spark, scoring in the lane on a nice floater. Julius Randle followed that up with a tip-in after a Lou Williams miss to cut the lead to 16 and force a Portland timeout. Kobe continued to get a mix of cheers and boos from the Portland crowd, but hit a fadeaway jumper at the free throw line to pull the Lakers to within 14. Portland responded with a quick 5-0 run that included giving up a pair of offensive boards, which Byron Scott wasn’t pleased about. Former-Laker Ed Davis was active inside for Portland, and the lead ballooned to 22. A three by Lillard on one trip hurt the Lakers, and then 4 offensive boards on the next possession for Portland led to an uncontested dunk. The Lakers defense somehow went from bad to worse, and they trailed by 25 at the end of the third.
The Lakers opened the fourth quarter with D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Bass, Ryan Kelly, and Anthony Brown joined by Marcelo Huertas. Russell got the Lakers going with 4 quick points off a pair of nice drives to the basket, and then Brown chipped in with one of his own. Russell continued his hot play by converting on a four-point play after being fouled on a three. The Blazers brought McCollum back in to help right the ship at stop the run, but with the outcome essentially decided it was still great to see Russell thriving. Unfortunately the D’Angelo show was short-lived, as Nick Young subbed in for him with about 6 minutes left. The crowd chanted for Kobe with both teams going through the paces in garbage time. Robert Sacre checked into the game, as did his Portland counterpart, Chris Kaman. Huertas found Kelly for a dunk on a fast break, but aside from that the waning minutes of the game provided little excitement. When the final horn sounded Portland got the win, 121-103.